President Jennifer Ford Reedy

Note from Jen: Black lives matter

July 9, 2020

Black lives matter.

It is a sign of the polarization of our time that such a simple statement can be so fraught that people refuse to say it. It is a moral truth. And it forces recognition of how racism in people and policies can violate this truth.

We believe racism is holding our region back from being all it can be and preventing us from reaching our individual and collective potential. The Bush Foundation’s purpose is to make the region better for everyone. Making the region better for everyone requires intentional anti-racism work.

At this moment, we are experiencing a global pandemic that is disrupting how we work and live, threatening our health, and exposing profound racial disparities in our country. We are also experiencing a collective reckoning with historic and ongoing racism, rising up after the murder of George Floyd here in Minnesota. Both demonstrate how racial disparities can have life or death consequence.

For the Bush Foundation and for institutions all over this region, it cannot be business as usual.

We have reprioritized our funding and our energy and are working in new ways to support communities. We have increased spending, reaching into our endowment to give more in this time of unprecedented needs. We are adapting grant processes with the goal of being radically simple and supportive. We are expediting grants to community-led efforts to respond to community crises in transformative ways.

Racial equity has long been embedded in our Bush Foundation strategy. We consider racial equity in our decision making across our programs and operations. We have — and will continue to have — a specific commitment to Native Americans in our region. We support the self-determination and sovereignty of the 23 Native nations in the region and prioritize investments in Native-led institutions and Native people.

We are building on this commitment to better respond to the particular experiences of our Black communities and to be more strongly anti-racist. Among other things, we have joined a group of funders to create a new kind of philanthropic collaborative, focused on racial justice and fighting anti-Black racism — The Philanthropic Collective to Combat Anti-Blackness & Realize Racial Justice. We are excited to work with our peer foundations to challenge each other to be better organizational allies in our work towards racial equity.

Across the country and in our region, we hear and agree with calls for foundations to respond to this moment with additional funding, more action and faster responses. We have heard both support and criticism of decisions we have made during this intense time.

When we announced the 2020 Bush Fellows, we heard a whole lot of excitement and we heard some disappointment and anger about who was and was not included. We know that people sometimes disagree with us about who should be a Bush Fellow. Indeed, there are differing opinions at every stage of our intensive, months-long process. We entrust both the initial screening and the final decision of who becomes a Bush Fellow to community leaders, and we evaluate and refine the process every year.

It can be painful to hear criticism, but it is vital for us to grow and improve. We appreciate that when people reach out to us it is because they care about whether we are doing all the good we can. We are grateful whenever someone takes the time and energy to push us to be bolder and better. We listen to each critique and suggestion and hold them as we work to do more good every year.

The Bush Foundation exists to make the region better for everyone. We support leaders to think bigger and differently about the change they can help make happen. We support communities to come together to solve challenges in creative and inclusive ways. We believe our focus on leadership and solving problems is more relevant and critical than ever right now.

In times of crisis there are opportunities for transformative change. We want to make the most of that opportunity, in ourselves and for the communities we serve. We know the arc of the moral universe can only bend toward justice if a whole lot of us work hard to bend it.